WES ANDERSON SHOOTS FOR THE 5 STARS
On Thursday night, Cambridge’s Brattle Theater is greeted with a bumbling crowd of turtleneck sporting film connoisseurs and young collegiate girls sporting Steve Zissou red beanies. Wes Anderson Fanatics have been waiting in a line that wraps around the corner since 3 P.M. for the 7:30 P.M. Fox Searchlight, rated R, 1 hour and 40 minute drama-comedy screening of THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL (written, directed, and produced by Wes Anderson among other collaborators). Clearly, this experience is worth more than the $10 ticket value that opened on 3/7 in LA and NYC, and hits all other box offices on March 14.
A bearded man stands on stage before a rustic theater of under 100 people all crunching on hand drizzled buttered popcorn, sipping on hard cider and Pinot Noir. He asks the audience to turn their phones on silent in what could almost be free verse poetry, and thanks Wes Anderson for allowing a preview screening of his latest cinematic endeavor.
I am beyond excited. I think of him sitting at an oak desk in the Alps writing by candlelight, I imagine Owen Wilson interrupting him to do a sake bomb, I imagine his flowy, red hair.
The lights turn low, and the fantastically excited and jittery giggles are muffled to whispers, which then fade into silence as the screen flashes.
Set in what seems to be the 1930’s between World War I and II, I am immersed in a fictional land where I must imagine myself walking through a fog bank somewhere in the likeness of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Switzerland, and/or Alaska. This land is foreign, but beautifully poetic. My thoughts greet me in the form of a dream-like poetry. I’ve entered the world of Wes Anderson.
We begin in the cemetery of Lutz, in the fictional European country of Zubrowska’s capital city, paying homage to the country’s highest regarded author of the novel, “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” Zubrowska is a city complete with its newspaper, the Trans-Alpine Yodel, the confidently pink-boxed and trendy temptations of Courtesan au chocolat from Mendl’s Patisserie (the pastry of choice), its snowy Alps like climate, and German Reich-like militia. Based in a Europe set in the past, one can gather that this is the Europe that will be destroyed by both storm trooper fascism followed by a communism that one is not likely to survive the transition into.
The author, played by Tom Wilkinson, tells the story of the book’s origins in a radio broadcast. Flashback to the 1960’s, where the unnamed author is now played by Jude Law who has checked into Sovietized Grand Budapest. This is where our author meets the now owner of The Grand Budapest Hotel, Zero Moufasta (F. Murray Abraham), who begins at The Grand Budapest Hotel as the lowliest provisionally hired lobby boy in training and then transitions into the richest man of Zubrowska. The young Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori) was the wallflower-like witness to the hotel’s most provocative of scandals, and must keep secrets as though he is a brick wall in a time where servitude is anticipated to quench an egotistical expectation’s thirst.
During an expensive dinner, the story reverts back to 1932 to tell the story of The Grand Budapest Hotel and its previous main attraction, Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes). Gustave was the type of man who attracted business through his celebrity like personality. Particularly fond of Gustave is a posy of groupie-like, wealthy, elderly ladies who rely on Gustave for his sexual services that he is almost always willing to give at the tip of a hat. The 84 year old countess Madame Celine Villeneuve Desgoffe und Taxis (also known as Madame D (Tilda Swinton), sporting intensive makeup and a silver zombie bride Marie Antoinette-like wig) is a personal mistress to Gustave and meets with him over lunch one day in fear that she will never see him again.
When Madame D dies and many suspect murder, the plot sets off into a tornado, pigeon-holing Gustave H as the murderer. Meanwhile, both Zero and Gustave are linked to every bit of nonsense revolving around Madame D’s death — right down to her last will and testament and her request that Gustave have the prized painting, “Boy With Apple.” This places Gustave under the radar of Madame D’s three daughters and possessive son named Dmitri (Adrien Brody), as well as the Society of Crossed Keys, a secretive concierge collective with a similarity to the CIA held tightly under the management of Bill Murray, Bob Balaban, and Fisher Stevens. Meanwhile, Gustave is being hunted down by the “in-the-shadows,” deranged, and murderous psychopath Jopling (Willem Dafoe).
Ralph Fiennes, last seen as Charles Dickens in THE INVISIBLE WOMAN (2013), intricately portrays Gustave H, The Grand Budapest’s icon of service and management who sports a vibrant purple coat. Gustave’s story is the noteworthy telling of an honored hotel concierge and rookie lobby boy, Zero, with a master-protege partnership that snowballs into a genuine friendship on an adventure worthy of a prison arrest leading to a prison escape, fingers lost, snow filled chase scenes, young sprouting love affairs, stolen paintings, old women with a fiery attraction to Fiennes, and the argument of one women’s death and a vicious battle for the family will from outside parties.
With a series of flashbacks in the iconic Anderson passive-aggressive, whimsical detour around the point, the backstory of our lead characters unfolds while protecting the story in its entirety.
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL calls for Anderson to enlist his famous army including costume designer Milena Canonero, production designer Adam Stockhausen, and cinematographer Robert Yeoman.
Similarly, Anderson’s picks from the entertainment industry’s litter includes many top dogs. These names include recurring collaborators Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Edward Norton, Jeff Goldblum, Willem Dafoe, Mathieu Amalric, Harvey Keitel, Lea Seydoux and introducing Saoirse Ronan as Agatha.
Anderson’s knack for obsessively detail-oriented work is his trademark. Similar to Moonrise Kingdom (2012), Anderson shot in Super 16 mm and the 1.33, 1.85, and 2.35 aspect ratio providing near perfect shots, per usual. His OCD style of presentation, consistent color schemes, and loyal cast has always been an inspiration to artists internationally. Anderson does not settle for less; this is obvious in the writing of his work as told through character dialogues, action-packed adventure and chase scenes, down to brass-tacks dramatic epiphanies, demand for perfection in all parts of his theatrical presentation straight down to their transitions (which to many seems overtly stark and almost suffocating to the story’s sake), and his exploration through ideas of space and philosophy through the filmmaking medium.
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL was the eighth feature film that Anderson has directed, written, and produced in the last thirteen years alongside co-writers such as Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, Roman Coppola, and Noah Baumbach — all without fail. His resume includes three short films like the premise to his first of many successful features, BOTTLE ROCKET (1996), and select commercials and promotional video’s including 2013’s Prada: Candy commercial. His last hit, MOONRISE KINGDOM, was nominated for various awards at Cannes Film Festival, an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award, and an Independent Spirit Award among others. Anderson’s rising fame has garnered devoted followings toward his recurring collaborators, and speculation toward THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL has not only talked, but walked. Berlin International Film Festival has already awarded the film the “Jury Grand Prix” award, the second most prestigious award in the festival-hat tip to Anderson for the international acclaim before the film even hits theaters in America.
His creation of THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL is that of a lucid dream. You enter knowing that when the lights go out, you go to sleep with a theater of 63, only to awake into a world where Anderson incepts your mind to control the moves; rest is never attained because your imagination is alive and awake alongside your neighbor who then asks to take your hand and run with you through a commentary on the history of the bourgeoisie and a world war regime that terrorizes an ambitious lifestyle.
Running time: 100 minutes
MPAA rating: R
Open in Boston on 3/14 @COOLIDGE
March 7, 2014
NEW YORK, NY
AMC Lincoln Square 13, New York, NY
Union Square Stadium 14, New York, NY
LOS ANGELES, CA
The Landmark, Los Angeles, CA
Arclight Hollywood, Hollywood CA
KEW GARDENS, NY
LA JOLLA, CA
PALO ALTO, CA
RED BANK, NJ
SAN DIEGO, CA
SAN FRANCISCO, CA
SAN JOSE, CA
SAN RAFAEL, CA
SHERMAN OAKS, CA